NOTES FROM THE FIELD
Liam Leslie '15 and Maisy Byerly '15
Maisy Byerly in front of the Rainbow Mountains in Zhangye, central Gansu Province
Maisy Byerly ’15 and Liam Leslie ’15 are the second-year Fellows at Shanxi Agricultural University in Taigu. Both of them had full teaching loads in spring semester: two undergraduate classes for English majors and four graduate level classes with 20-30 students in each class. In addition, they taught a special six-week course to prepare a group of highly motivated professors who were preparing to go abroad, and helped staff and professors correct academic papers.
Maisy, a very talented artist, has been documenting aspects of her sojourn in China in a series of drawings, Life in Taigu, which offer a glimpse into her everyday surroundings: she plays softball with a student named Jia Zhi Rong; we are offered a view of the vegetable market outside the university walls; and a dumpling restaurant invites her for cooking lessons. On the other hand, Liam’s dazzling photos of their summer travels took us far from Taigu to Gansu Province in western China and Mongolia.
Annelise Giseburt '16
UNITAR workshop for high school students
We announced Shansi’s new Hiroshima Fellowship in our newsletter a year ago. Now, we are pleased to update you on our first Fellow, Annelise Giseburt ’16. Annelise arrived in Hiroshima on September 1 to launch what we hope will be a long and productive relationship between Oberlin Shansi and the city of Hiroshima. Annelise immediately started working full time, dividing her efforts between three organizations: The United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR), Green Legacy Hiroshima, and Asian Network of Trust – Hiroshima (ANT). For more information on these organizations, please check out our web page on the Hiroshima Fellowship.
UNITAR has an established intern program that ensures a steady flow of volunteers for the organization from universities in the area, but the interns come and go every few months. When Oberlin Professor Ann Sherif approached UNITAR about the possibility of having a Shansi Fellow for two years, it was an attractive offer, especially because we could send a Fellow who was capable of working in a Japanese-English bilingual work environment.
Because this is a new venture for Shansi, we knew it would take some time for Annelise to establish her work responsibilities at the three organizations. UNITAR, for example, works with civil servants and private citizens from countries such as Afghanistan and South Sudan to assist these countries to recover from upheavals, build stable governance systems, and bring about sustainable development. Green Legacy and ANT, on the other hand, are small NGOs with decidedly local orientations. How will a Shansi Fellow handle high-level international development work and become a productive member of the team at a U.N. agency, and then travel across town to a small local NGO and fit into an entirely different work structure? Luckily, Annelise arrived with already strong Japanese language skills and experience living in Japan, and has approached these challenges with passion and humility. She described some of her initial experiences and activities in a recent dispatch from the field.
“I had done nothing to prepare for work at UNITAR and ANT-Hiroshima. How could I, really, when I had no idea how ‘developing and delivering focused and relevant needs-based training’ is put into practice on a day-to-day basis? Now I have a much clearer picture. Organizing an international training program involves complex logistics, constant communication with a wide network of outposted coworkers, participants, and supporters, and the creation and review of the actual content of the training. Does that sound complicated? Believe me, I’m still leaving a lot out. On top of the training programs, UNITAR puts on a number of events to augment the trainings and increase the organization’s visibility in the community.
Each week brings a new task I’ve never done before; I feel that even though my schooling ended last May, my learning hasn’t slowed at all. I still struggle to describe exactly what I’m working on at UNITAR because my tasks are so varied. However, one common theme is writing and communication. I have translated fliers, agendas, and social media updates, helped interview hopeful program participants, looked for trends in survey responses, turned a 20-page panel discussion transcript into a three-page summary, and drafted letters, among other activities.
After four days a week at UNITAR, I spend every Friday at the ANT-Hiroshima office. As expected from an NGO versus a UN organization, working at ANT has given me many opportunities to not only deepen my knowledge of Hiroshima’s history but also better understand and make connection with the current city. My main job at ANT is managing their English-language blog, and I learn about the organization and the communities it is a part of through writing. However, I spend some time outside the office as well, for example, checking-up on atomic-bombed trees or attending talks about the neighborhood of Motomachi.”
Annelise sent us a brief list of her varied activities, and the notes from September 15 stood out as interesting as well as amusing.
“9.15 (Thurs): This week at UNITAR: staff meetings and trainings; editing the report on 2015 Afghanistan women’s soccer; planning UNITAR Cafe (event for high schoolers with interest in UN); editing Myanmar disarmament training proposal; preparing some materials for Carp Peace Day; a Costco run for candy.”
The 2015 Afghanistan women’s soccer refers to the Afghanistan National Women’s Football team that played a friendly peace match with Hiroshima’s women’s team, Ange Violet. The week-long training program in Hiroshima was focused on gender empowerment and developing skills and knowledge around leadership, team development, communication and sports psychology. The UNITAR Café is a program for Japanese high school students to learn about the activities of the UN. Carp Peace Day entailed the UNITAR staff distributing information about UNITAR at the beginning of a baseball game of the city’s beloved Hiroshima Carps. The final entry “a Costco run for candy” illustrates that Annelise’s day may also include some surprises!
Annelise is off to a great start, and we look forward to following her adventures as she dives into work and life in Hiroshima over the next two years.